The experience of Passover is basically a front-loaded bell curve. We go from hysterical preparatory stress prior to bi’ur hametz (when we ritually burn the last leaven we possess the morning before the seder) at which point it becomes festive and exciting. The seder, when it works, is wondrous. In recovery, we are a bit tired and grumpy perhaps, but still the aroma of the seder lingers. We read Song of Songs on the shabbat of Pesach, which is the loveliest of lovely texts, Song of Songs, Holy of Holies, Loveliness of Lovelinesses. And then we begin to slip downward toward the final day, and the lack of soft bread and the comfort of regularity begin to wear on us.
And this seems to me to mimic the experience of freedom itself in history. Liberation requires grueling effort. And then there is celebration and euphoria. And then there is leisure and poetry. But then it becomes a grind, and we just want the comforts and demands of mindless normalcy. And we lose sight of the joy of freedom. And we start losing the energy and creativity it requires. And we excuse imperfections and become apologists for its incompletions. From the Exodus and Revelation to the “Days of the Judges.” From liberation and independence to pettiness and callousness. And we no longer set aside our fear of “the stranger” and bid them enter to eat with us and be with us. And we stop challenging ourselves.
Jewish life operates both cyclically and linearly. We know that things repeat. We know that Pesach will lead to Shavuot will lead to Sukkot will lead to another Pesach. We know that Shabbat will give way to another week to another Shabbat. But we also know that Pesach of Egypt must at some point cease to repeat and the cycle will break and burst and give way to and reveal the line that leads to the ultimate Pesach, the Pesach of the Generations, when celebratory freedom will no longer degrade into fatigue and corruption, when we no longer will fear the stranger, nor will the stranger fear us, when no one will “devour Jacob,” nor will we require rituals to remind us to be compassionate to those who have wronged us so grievously. This year in bondage, next year in a lasting and inclusive freedom of durable joy and kindness. Next year in a Jerusalem truly rebuilt, a “city knit together unto itself,” in which the painful gap between the real and the ideal is no more, a city of freedom and justice worthy of its name and all of us meriting the great blessing that it is to live here.
A joyful Passover to all who celebrate. A hopeful Festival of Spring for all humanity.
חג פסח שמח ואביבי בתקווה לכולם!